Joan Kim


In 1953, Joan, front left, with her husband Jae, siblings and father outside the family home in Pusan, South Korea. Kim collection

Left: Visiting the iconic Mount Kŭmgangsan during her travels in North Korea, 1992. Kim collection

Right: Home at last, in Centralia, Washington. Kim collection

Joan Kim’s unstable childhood bounced her between North Korea, Manchuria and South Korea. She spent little time on the soil her family occupied for two millennia as the communists forced her father to give up the generations-old family farm.

Joan didn’t return to North Korea for another 48 years, when she was given the rare opportunity to visit her two older brothers in 1992 after being separated for nearly five decades. Joan finally had a place to call home when she and her husband bought a house in Centralia, Washington, when she was 40. Her daughter, Cindy Ryu, is now a member of the Washington State Legislature.